T4America: Just Like Plane Crashes, Pedestrian Deaths Are a National Issue

Pedestrian fatalities from 2000 to 2009 near the high school I graduated from, in Philadelphia's inner suburbs. Map your own neighborhoods at ##http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign2011/map/##Transportation for America##'s website.

Over the last decade, nearly 48,000 people were killed in the simple act of walking. Many of them were on streets built only to accommodate fast-moving cars, without safe places for people to walk or cross the street.

Transportation for America’s new report, “Dangerous by Design,” includes rankings of states and metro areas, but you can zoom in even more precisely on your neighborhood or your kids’ school. Check out their interactive map to find pedestrian fatalities and identify trouble spots near you.

And don’t stop there. T4America is encouraging everyone who supports safer streets to take action and tell Congress to preserve funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

If a jumbo jet went down every month, Congress would pass laws left and right. If a consumer product injured someone every seven minutes, the feds would shut down production.

Well, that’s exactly how many Americans are being killed and injured in the act of walking pedestrian-unfriendly streets, according to our report, out today. But in the case of pedestrian safety, our federal tax dollars actually go to build streets that are designed to be perilous to children, the elderly and everyone else.

And yet, right now, some in Congress are trying to kill funding for projects to make it safer to walk and bicycle!

What can be done to reduce the number of deaths on the country’s roads? Barbara McCann of the National Complete Streets Coalition explained how safer street designs save lives.

Since adopting a “complete streets” approach in 2006, Seattle has seen a decline in overall traffic fatalities across the city, she said. All kinds of crashes, not just those involving pedestrians, dropped 21 percent after a street redesign on Aurora Avenue, a major north-south arterial, which was outfitted with new crossings, bus plazas, and other pedestrian facilities. Meanwhile, McCann said, on Stone Way, where trucks, cars and bicycles struggled to share the road, new designs resulted in a 75 percent decline in speeding, a 35 percent increase in bicycle traffic – and a decrease in the rate of bicycle crashes. Pedestrian collisions fell by 80 percent.

In New York City, the DOT has found that installing bike lanes is a boon for pedestrians, too: Serious crashes on streets with bike lanes are 40 percent less deadly than on other streets. Injuries to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists have fallen steeply on corridors where innovative protected bikeways have been installed — in some locations, traffic injuries dropped more than 50 percent after implementation.

Meanwhile, the public health community, alarmed by the nation’s obesity epidemic, has been telling people to get out and get active. But in some places, walking for health could be more dangerous than staying sedentary.

“People have tried to say that obesity and diabetes are related to personal behaviors, that people don’t exercise enough and eat the wrong kinds of foods,” said Dr. Tony DeLucia, a leader in the American Lung Association and other public health groups. “But in public health, we’ve started to look upstream at how, since World War Two, the design of the transportation system has been inclined toward automobile, almost exclusively.”

So is this a national issue? According to James Corless of T4America, roads eligible for federal aid funds account for about 15 percent of lane miles in the United States, but 67 percent of pedestrian fatalities happen on those roads. Clearly these roads are being built wrong, using federal taxpayer dollars to engineer and construct a physical environment that put people’s lives in danger. The federal government needs to take note and prevent more needless deaths.

  • Ray

    Is the database by chance including car deaths as well?  For example, doing some quick searches near me in Alexandria, VA – I see deaths on major Interstate highways as well (I-95), and noticed the database has that category as well.

  • Anonymous

    i assume this only counts pedestrians who had right of way?

  • Tom

    Read the fine print.  This report is pointed at federal-aid roadways.  Think Mayberry RFD.

  • Mark Walker

    When streets are optimized for fast-moving car traffic, a pedestrian can do everything right and still be slaughtered.

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  • Steve Davis

    @d843140be402a26483365143720344e5:disqus , the report is aimed at all roads and covers all ped deaths reported by states, though we certainly have a focus on pointing out to the feds that this is not just a local issue. And 67 percent of all fatalities occurred on federal-aid roads.@55926d11e3304bc3d110cd3221a41438:disqus , there are most definitely fatalities on interstates included in the FARS database and the map. Some are likely people changing a flat or otherwise stopped with their car, but a surprising number are people walking (illegally) on an interstate. Which I’d suggest often happens because we’ved rammed an interstate through their neighborhood or it’s now the quickest way between A and B. 

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  • Dan Hyatt

    The author is misleading the public….
    In 2006 through about 2012 traffic deaths across the board dropped dramatically due to high gas prices, poor economy so people were driving a LOT less. This was not due to progressive conduct by Seattle. This was due to circumstances beyond our control.

    You will never be able to eliminate “pedestrian accidents” on the free-way. When people are illegally walking on the free-way, and people are stupidly milling between two cars or in traffic lanes after an accident. Often it is the secondary accident that is fatal. My friend’s father was hit by 6 cars when his car broke down on the right side of the freeway and he decided to cross the freeway instead of staying with the car.

    In one large city in California, all Pedestrian deaths were men leaving the bars and jaywalking across 8 lanes of highway to get home instead of walking to the stop light/crosswalk

    What the author ignores is that the vast majority of pedestrian deaths are men 18-45, in my current county almost all pedestrian deaths are men wearing dark cloths walking down the middle of the lane of an unlit county or state highway even though a sidewalk is present (think Michael Brown, he was shot minutes after he refused an order to walk on the sidewalk, sidewalks on both sides of the street).

    In short…progressive draconian laws to upsurp the best engineering practices are extremely bad form and will not reduce traffic deaths.

  • Dan Hyatt

    after an accident people foolishly mill around in lanes of traffic instead of getting to the side of the freeway or staying in their cars if they won’t move. The fatal accidents are often the secondary accident…
    Most of my areas pedestrian accidents is due to black men wearing dark cloths walking in the lanes of the street regardless whether there is a sidewalk or not. Or they get off metrolink at the airport and walk down the freeway to where they are going to save 1/2 mile of walking… we get one hit by cars there every month or two.

  • Dan Hyatt

    read the really fine print…pretty much every public road in the US is federal aid roadways

  • Dan Hyatt

    you assume wrong… most pedestrian accidents are pedestrians jaywalking or walking in lanes of traffic,
    Or milling around a breakdown or accident. Where they should be getting off the damn road.
    When changing a tire on the freeway…your tire is destroyed, drive at 10mph in the breakdown lane to the next offramp and get in a parking lot or sidestreet to change the tire.
    Remember EVERY tow truck driver that dies changing a tire or hooking up a disabled vehicle is listed as a pedestrian death.

  • Dan Hyatt

    How do you figure? If the pedestrian is on the sidewalk, crosses at the crosswalk looking for drivers who don’t see him… he will never get run over, unless a car ends up on the sidewalk (very rare).
    Almost every day I cross a busy state highway (jaywalking just like all the other professionals at my research institute)… and the only time people almost get hit is when they are in the crosswalk crossing against the light.

    But we are paying attention so we never get hit.

  • Dan Hyatt

    There is a Federal database which is fed by all 50 state DOTs database, which is fed by all the local jurisdictions reporting thier accidents.

    you will find that Freedom of information act is your friend. Just remember, they are not providing the critical details, just cherry picked data.

    A kansas city Mo PD report in 2012 noted that ALL red light camera studies were invalid for this one simple grievous error. They did not verify the data by pulling the police reports..
    Thus each of the studies made this error. When the study says the accident happened on freeway 1 at main street. The studies mistakenly listed the 100 accidents happening in the intersection of the offramp and main street.
    When the police officer was saying the accident happened on the freeway, the nearest offramp was main street.

    so if I want to commit suicide and drop 5 hits of LSD, some oxy and chase it with a fifth of burbon and dance in the lanes of the freeway wearing all black at night… is this suicide or an avoidable pedestrian accident???

    If I decide to commit suicide and jump off a freeway bridge into traffic and get hit by 5 cars (happens here several times a year)… is this an avoidable pedestrian accident???

    If wife is getting beaten by her husband and is thrown out of a moving car and hit by the following car… is this murder or an avoidable pedestrian accident (hint the federal database lists it as a pedestrian death).

    If I am in a freeway rear end accident and me and three other fools are standing between the two NON disabled cars arguing about whose fault the accident is…and a car rear ends the rear car killing all four of us…is this a pedestrian accident or Darwin event (federal database lists it as pedestrian deaths).

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